Today, Lowry doesn't preach about anarchy or rant about smashing the state -- in fact, he stays silent on nearly half of Paseo's tracks, letting the group's smooth, jazzy improvisation and rattlesnake percussion communicate his ideas. The only clues come from the song titles: "Voodoo Chile"-style wakka-wakka guitars speak of a "Relationship," polished guitar-and-bass passages shine from "Too Much Varnish," a gently melodic lead shouts "Whooh!" Though Lowry's musical message is now more mature than the simple sentiments he shared with Dirty Steve and Smokehouse, the blues-based outfit with whom he served refried standards between 1996 and 1998, not all listeners are able to interpret and appreciate his new songs' instrumental subtitles.
"A lot of crowds don't get what we're doing at all," Lowry admits. "We haven't gotten to the right audiences yet, but we're building up our fanbase little by little." To speed up this process, Lowry frontloaded Paseo with overwhelmingly upbeat numbers. After hooking ears with the opening title track, which pairs growly vocals that turn on into rrrron with stop-and-start bursts of slow-punching funk, Paseo gradually drifts away from accessibility, a voyage that ends with a jarring hidden cut that comes complete with a sampled conversation about martial law and a series of grotesquely juicy belches.
"That's [bassist] Mike Moellman," Lowry explains. "He does a lot of experimental stuff, recording random noise and friends when they're not paying attention." Moellman, a free-form jazz enthusiast, pushes the band's songs to extremes, while straightforward guitarist John Johnson, steady percussionist Bryan Winkert and Lowry keep them tethered to some sort of tangible structure.
Because of band members' steady grooves, which surface even in their most adventurous compositions, and sprawling song lengths, Lowry fares better with hippies than with hipsters. Lowry admits that "the jam crowd will move to what we do," but he balks at lumping the band in with that set, primarily for semantic reasons. "I really like the scene, but I don't really like the word 'jam,'" he says. "It limits what the music's trying to do, the open-mindedness of what it is." Also, Lowry's tunes, expansive by most standards, seem slim compared with the thirty-minute epics conjured by the jam circuit's leading lights. "We don't want to get stuck doing an endless boogie," Lowry says.
Lowry already has shared area stages with jam-masters the Samples as well as with links to neo-Deadhead royalty (Jerry Joseph, who has written songs for Widespread Panic, and Blueground Undergrass, who taught Phish all its pickin'-and-grinnin' tricks). Band members' dream gigs include the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Medeski, Martin & Wood, bands whose fans could be expected to understand instrumental-heavy sets. Lowry also names Paul Simon and Dave Matthews, hinting that there's a part of him that might like to inject a heavier singer/songwriter element into his band's approach.
"I have a library of words that I've never used," Lowry says. "But there's three other people in the group, so I have to find a nice medium." This wasn't always the case -- three years ago, Lowry the band was simply Lowry the man, with a bassist and later Winkert on hand to flesh out the tunes for his double-disc debut, Spent Movement. The group's sound has changed radically since that release, thanks to Lowry's enrollment in jazz classes at UMKC as well as to the influence of the band's new members.